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New Iran nuclear sanctions 'only path', says US
Posted: 02-09-2010
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8504637.stm


New Iran nuclear sanctions 'only path', says US


Iran's nuclear programme has alarmed Western powers
The US has said new sanctions against Iran are the "only path" after Tehran announced it was stepping up its uranium enrichment programme.
Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, earlier said Tehran had told the UN's nuclear watchdog it would start enriching uranium to 20% from Tuesday.
The move heightens fears that Iran is moving closer to weapons-grade uranium.
The US called on the international community to take new action and France called Iran's latest move "blackmail".
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and French Defence Minister Herve Morin, after talks in Paris, said their position on Iran was one of "complete agreement".

ANALYSIS

Jon Leyne, BBC News
Iran is stepping up the pace of its nuclear confrontation with the West.
If the aim is to have all 10 new enrichment plants running in a year, then it is almost laughably ambitious - it has taken many years to get the first plant at Natanz running and it still has problems.
But this flurry of announcements reflects the turmoil faced by President Ahmadinejad's government, as they square up for a major day of pro- and anti-government demonstrations on the anniversary of the revolution.
Although Mr Gates said he still wanted to "try and find a peaceful way to resolve this issue", he added: "The only path that is left to us at this point, it seems to me, is that pressure track, but it will require all of the international community to work together."
He said the international community had given Iran "multiple opportunities to provide reassurance about its intentions with respect to its nuclear programme".
Mr Morin said: "It will unfortunately be necessary to launch a dialogue with the international community that will lead to new sanctions if Iran does not stop its programmes."
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was even more forceful in his comments, saying: "This is real blackmail. The only thing that we can do, alas, is apply sanctions given that negotiations are not possible."
French President Nicolas Sarkozy later added his voice, saying Iran should face "strong sanctions" over its nuclear programme.
The UN Security Council has already imposed three rounds of sanctions against Iran in an effort to make it stop all uranium enrichment activities and heavy-water projects.

Robert Gates: "My hope is that we can keep this within economic and diplomatic channels"

The Russian foreign ministry on Monday again called on Iran to abide by its earlier agreements to send uranium abroad for enrichment.
A deal struck in October between Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the so-called P5+1 - the US, Russia, China, UK, France plus Germany - envisaged Iran sending about 70% of its low-enriched uranium to Russia and France where it would be processed into fuel for a research reactor.
Last month, diplomats said Iran had told the IAEA that it did not accept the terms of the deal, although there have since been other, conflicting messages.
Speaking on Sunday evening, Mr Salehi said that enriched uranium production would be halted if Iran received fuel enriched to 20% from abroad.
But on Monday he said: "Iran's official letter about commencing the 20% enrichment activity in order to provide fuel for the Tehran reactor has been handed over to the IAEA."
The enrichment would be at Natanz, Iran's main uranium plant.

URANIUM ENRICHMENT

Iran says it is increasing uranium enrichment from 3.5% needed for commercial nuclear reactors
Says it will enrich to 20%, needed for a research reactor near Tehran
Weapons-grade uranium is at least 90% enriched
Experts say achieving 20% is a key step towards weapons grade

In depth: Nuclear fuel cycle
Iran confuses West again
Iran currently enriches uranium to a level of 3.5% but requires 20% enriched uranium for its Tehran research reactor, which is meant to produce medical isotopes. A bomb would require uranium enriched to at least 90%.
To achieve 20% enrichment would be such a major step for Iran, David Albright of Washington's Institute for Science and International Security told the Associated Press news agency, it "would be going most of the rest of the way to weapon-grade uranium".
Mr Salehi said that 10 new uranium enrichment plants would be built.
However, experts poured scorn on that announcement, pointing to the cost of such an undertaking and Iran's problems obtaining components because of UN sanctions.
Mark Fitzpatrick, a proliferation expert at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies, described the proposal as a "farcical bluff".
"Iran presumably could start construction by pushing dirt around for 10 new facilities, but there is no way it could begin to construct and equip that many more plants," he told Reuters news agency.
"It is hard-pressed today even to keep the centrifuges installed at Natanz running smoothly."
The latest developments come days before Iran celebrates the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution on Thursday.
The event is expected to see pro- and anti-government demonstrations.
Witnesses say the situation in Tehran is increasingly tense, with a series of checkpoints already set up across the city.
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